Wilson was speaking on Wednesday afternoon at The University of Kansas Hospital, where there was a definite sign of how much things have changed since 1985. It was the day of World Series Game 2 over at Kauffman Stadium, and Major League Baseball and the Royals were in the pediatric intensive care unit at the hospital to donate a Starlight Fun Center mobile entertainment unit. It was part of a large overall MLB community effort that accompanies World Series games annually.
"You guys don't remember me, but we hope you guys get well soon, and instead of you guys coming to The K, we thought we'd bring some of the events to you guys and bring The K out here," Wilson told the children who were brought into the room for a ribbon-cutting ceremony. "Is that all right with you guys?"
The two-time All-Star outfielder spent the first 15 years of his 19-year Major League career with Kansas City, going a combined 20-for-59 at the plate in that 1985 postseason and stealing three bags in the Fall Classic against St. Louis. The youngsters may have been just learning about him, but Wilson needed no introduction to hospital staff and parents in attendance.
Wilson attended along with MLB vice president of community affairs Tom Brasuell, senior vice president and chief administrative officer for The University of Kansas Hospital Jon Jackson, Royals senior director of community relations Ben Aken and Sluggerrr, the Royals' mascot.
"I would do this even if MLB wasn't here," Wilson said of the community outreach. "It's not fun for me to be here. It's actually gratifying for me to be here. I really love doing this stuff for kids, especially kids who aren't as fortunate as a lot of others. It really makes you feel sad that it's not the case. But if I can do something to brighten their day, just for a little bit, I love doing that."
Brasuell said this brings the number of Starlight Fun Center donations up to about 70 over the past decade, with the two World Series host cities becoming regular recipients.
"It's always great to be out in a hospital to help kids heal, recover, get better a little bit faster," Brasuell said. "It's been proven that these Fun Centers really help them do that. It gives them a little bit of a distraction. The nurses, the doctors, the staff and families do a great job helping the kids get better, but this Starlight Foundation donation does a little bit more. Having great legends like Willie Wilson and Sluggerrr coming out here and cheering kids, it all helps."
The University of Kansas Hospital, also known as KU Med, is an academic medical center, so they do teaching and research as well as patient care. Jackson said they have the highest level of care for kids and adults, and he noted that this event was in the intensive care unit, "where the sickest of the sick kids that we take care of come, so this gives them a little bit of a respite place."
"The kids have a lot of stuff going on, whether it's IVs, or they're interrupted at night, or blood pressure is being taken, or tests being taken," Jackson said. "They're away from home, away from their normal surroundings, and this gives them an opportunity to play some of the games that maybe they're familiar with, get a little bit of that normal environment back to them, and have a little bit of a break and a little bit of a fantasyland from the kind of reality that we impose upon them here at the hospital."
Wilson got down on his knees to interact with some of the children seated around a table, asking how they were doing. He wore his familiar No. 6 home Royals jersey. He hopes the attention will be on Alex Gordon, Salvador Perez and this year's crew, yet he remembers it all so well.
"It brings back memories, but some of the memories ... we struggled for a while," Wilson said. "We lost a couple Series. We had an opportunity to lose and then win, and to learn what we did. Hopefully these guys will learn a little quicker and not lose a few years in a row, but it's gratifying to have them be in the Series. I don't think anybody thought they were going to be here, except them, so hopefully they won't wake up and they'll keep performing like they have all year long."